As one is ushered into the technological millennium, life has become a ratrace for people in every walk of life. Not everyone shares the perspective of 65-year-old KR Vijayan — owner of a nondescript easy-to-miss wayside tea shop in Gandhi Nagar, Kochi — when it comes to travelling and living. Even though his sole income is from the shop, he has visited 17 countries so far. Vijayan says, “Some people say I am crazy. Maybe I am. But, we live only once and I believe that our entire life is a journey and the experiences that we accumulate are our only earnings from life.”
Fortunately, my parents too share immense enthusiasm for travelling and by their grace I have explored a number of places within the country. We came up with a plan to visit Meghalaya and the largest river island in the world, Majuli in Assam.
On a Friday night, we boarded a train and reached Guwahati around 9 the next morning. Once outside, we found a swarming mass of taxi drivers, calling out “Shillong… Silchar”, with much persistence.
Shillong is just a couple of hours from Guwahati and just before reaching the capital of Meghalaya, we came across the popular Umiam Lake, known as Bara Pani among local people. The turquoise hue of the water was breathtaking to behold.
The Shillong View Point was next up. It allows a bird’s eye view of the entire city and beyond through a telescope. I think we did a city tour through the telescope itself — brick by brick. Then along the way, Elephant Falls came up — clearly the magnificence of the waterfall speaks for itself.
Back in the city, we discovered that Ward’s Lake was a place where time flies just by gazing at the beauty of the park and row-boating in the still waters. While there, a stroll through the bustling shops of Police Bazaar is highly recommended along with sampling some of the delicious food in the area.
Next day, we left for Cherrapunji. The mountains of the North-east are widespread but gentler. It felt like an absolute surreal experience to drive through the lonely serpentine roads with the gentle slopes closing in at times and spreading out at others. The mountains were an exact example of how I had imagined the Wessex Mountains to be from the pages of Thomas Hardy’s classics.
The first spot we went to in Cherrapunji was Nohkalikai Falls — the tallest plunge waterfall in India at 1,115 feet. The plunge pool that the waterfall hits has an unusual eye-soothing greenish tinge. Another major tourist spot was the Mawsmai Caves. It was my first time in a cave and I was initially sceptical about entering it because I thought I would be walking amid dirty, damp rocks. Instead, it truly turned out to be the most adventurous part of the trip. The rocks were of a most exquisite texture, slippery to touch but absolutely dirt and dust free, much to my surprise. They might owe their cleanliness to the water trickling through the fissures and the entire path was well-lit. As we moved deeper into the cave, the rock-roof pressed us closer to the ground. Looking back, it was actually a thrilling experience to squeeze through really narrow openings and bump our heads against the protruding rocks overhead!
Thereafter we hit the road and set off for Majuli. We drove to Nimati Ghat over Kaziranga from where we were ferried to the largest river island. It’s said the island will be engulfed by the Brahmaputra in 15 years from now.
There was a striking peculiarity about life there. The only god the inhabitants believe in is Lord Krishna and one can only find ashrams devoted to Vishnu. Throughout the year people prepare for the Raas festival. I felt that other than mask-making, practicing roles for skits in the Raas or singing devotional verses, there’s not much to do there.The island stays pretty much isolated after 5 pm as the last ferry leaves at that hour.
Thus, we bid adieu to the lonesome island and with that our short journey came to an end.